Storm Door Buying Guide

A storm door protects your home from the elements, extends the life of your front door and aids ventilation. Here's what to know before you buy one.

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The term storm door, defined as an additional door placed outside an ordinary exterior door for added protection from severe weather, was first used in 1878. Today’s storm doors typically have glass and screen inserts that offer flexibility depending on the season.

If you’re considering a storm door for your home, or if you have one and are thinking about upgrading, here are some things to know before you purchase.

What Is a Storm Door?

Storm doors are “extra” doors installed in front of an existing exterior door. A storm door provides an added layer of protection for your exterior doors, especially in the winter months, and can help air circulate in warmer weather. Storm doors serve the following functions:

  • In winter, a storm door protects a wooden or painted front door from the elements.
  • It also allows you to open the front door to allow in light — but not cold air — through the glass panel, as long as temperatures are moderate.
  • It provides an added layer of insulation, blocking cold drafts from entering or heated air from escaping through an exterior door.
  • In warm weather, screen panels on a storm door allow air to enter and circulate but keep bugs and debris out.

Difference Between a Storm Door and a Screen Door

A door with a screen that lets air into the house? That sounds like a screen door, right? But a storm door is not the same as those flimsy doors you got your fingers pinched in as a kid (or did that only happen to me?).

A storm door has removable or adjustable glass and panel inserts, which the homeowner switches out depending on weather. Storm doors are sturdier than typical screen doors because they have to be built tough to keep out inclement weather.

When to Use a Storm Door

A storm door is a year-round addition to your home. The glass panels come in handy in cold, rainy or windy weather, as they protect exterior doors from the elements. If it’s cool but sunny, you can open the front door, leave the storm door shut and enjoy the sunshine coming in through the glass panel.

If your storm door has a screen, you can remove the glass panels in warmer weather and use the screen to let in fresh air without letting in pesky insects.

Storm Door Types and Features

Storm doors can be made of wood, fiberglass, PVC or aluminum, with wood the least common.

Aluminum and synthetic doors usually have a hard foam inner core that provides insulation against heat and cold. Their panels are made from tempered glass, which is hard to break. If it is broken, it crumbles instead of splinters. Low-E glass is also tempered, but with extra UV protection. Extra-durable laminated glass panels have two panes of tempered glass with a laminate film between them.

These are the main types of storm doors:

Full-view storm doors. This type of storm door usually has a full glass panel, but may have two or more smaller panels. Some have pet door features. When the front door is opened, a full-view storm door allows ample light to enter. Most full-view doors also have a screen panel. In warm weather, the glass panel is removed and the screen panel inserted.

Partial-view storm doors. Partial-view doors essentially have less window and more door. They still allow light and air to enter, and may have the same features of full-view doors, including removable glass panes, pet doors and retractable screens.

Retractable or self-storing screen storm doors. This type of storm door usually has a full-view window but may have a half window pane. Its screen door retracts into the body of the door when not in use. To use the screen, you pop out the glass panel(s).

Ventilating storm doors. This type of storm door may be a full- or partial-view door with one or more glass panels. The screens are fixed in position and not removable. Some allow you to slide a screen up or down to cover one window opening or the other.

Most home improvement stores keep a range of doors types and dimensions in stock. White and almond are the most common colors, though other colors may be available by special order.

Storm door handles and locks may be included with the door or may be sold separately. You can opt for a handle only, or add a lock for an extra layer of security.

How to Buy a Storm Door

Before you purchase a storm door, take complete measurements of the inside of the existing door casing, and take note of whether you need a left- or right-opening door. (Some doors are interchangeable left/right, but not all.) Because the storm door needs to attach to the existing door frame, make sure yours is solid, without splits or dry rot.

If your car has a hatchback and back seats that fold down flat, you can probably get the door home from the store. Otherwise, you’ll need to schedule delivery/shipping or borrow or rent a truck.

Storm Door Installation

If you have decent DIY skills, the right tools and a second pair of hands to help out, you can install a storm door yourself. Most storm doors are prehung on a frame and come with an installation kit that includes all the hardware you need. Required tools typically include a drill, a Phillips head screwdriver, measuring tape, a level, an angle tool, scissors and safety goggles.

If you opt for professional installation, it will cost between $70 and $200.

Storm Door Maintenance

Storm doors require minimal maintenance. Clean off dirt, spider webs and any debris with a soft cloth, and wash with a rag and soap and water when needed. When storing glass or screen panels, make sure they’re in a safe place in your garage or basement where they won’t get torn, broken or bent.